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Hutch's 2022 Trip Report Thread - Six Flags Great Adventure

Hutch

Strata Poster
This year is shaping up to be a pretty big year when it comes to theme park-related trips, and perhaps my biggest year yet. So I’m gonna take a page out of @Antinos and @HeartlineCoaster's book and just keep one thread of trip reports from separate trips. A good portion of it will be stuff I’ve already done or have already reported about in previous years (like this first one), so I’ll keep those brief while highlighting new additions.

So big shoutout to @CoasterMOG and his fiance for organizing this trip! Last weekend was his 40th birthday and he invited a bunch of the Buzzed Bars crew out for a weekend in Orlando. Needless to say, it was a wild weekend!

Most of us, including myself, had picked up a Universal annual pass in November for a similar trip. It basically pays for itself in three park visits, and given how expensive typical tickets are, it was the right move. It also incentivizes us to make the effort to return this year. Additionally, I picked up a SeaWorld Platinum Pass (through San Antonio, since it was cheapest), as Ice Breaker was doing previews over the weekend. So make that two season passes that I never thought I would own.

Friday, Feb 4th

I flew from Boston to Orlando Friday morning. Most people weren’t scheduled to arrive until the evening, but luckily a few others had also arrived earlier. @LooperOne picked me up from the airport, and after a quick lunch stop at Jersey Mikes, we basically beelined to Islands of Adventure for a couple hours on VelociCoaster.

I’ll keep the Universal Stuff brief, especially since @Serena just did her great report, and @Hyde had a recent one as well.

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VelociCoaster continues to amaze us. It honestly is the most perfectly crafted coaster out there. The only thing keeping me from ranking it higher than No. 5 is its intensity. It’s not going to exhaust you like Voyage, it’s not going to go all out like Vengeance or Lightning Rod, and it’s not going to murder you like Skyrush. But it does go above and beyond with its top tier layout, fantastic theming, sleek train design, and masterful interaction with the pathways, queue, and plaza. Plus, the operations are some of the best you’ll ever see. The queue is consistently 45 min to an hour (can get down to half an hour on weekdays), but it’s constantly moving and doesn’t feel like a slog to wait (especially with good company).

(Some of these photos were back from November, I'll just use them here)

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Now that I have over a dozen rides on this, I can safely say that the final barrel roll over the lake is the highlight of the ride. For the past few months I wasn’t sure if this would beat Nemesis’ zero g roll as my favorite inversion, but then I remember that when you look up while upside down, there’s literally water right above you. It’s the best inversion in the world.

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Also LOVE this stall. Thanks to the restraints, physics basically ragdolls your upper body back and forth as go through the stall.

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I could go on about this, but you get the idea. Intamin is killing it.

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The park actually closed at 6 PM, but I was fine with that as it allowed more time to regroup at the Airbnb and meet up with the birthday boy. More folks started showing up, including @Snoo, @Sky, @Groot, @tomahawk, @Youngster Joey, and many others.

Later that night, we all drove out to ICON Park to check out the hottest new ride, Drop Tower!

And **** it was wild. I enjoy a good drop tower, but every now and then they still get me a little bit. And this was the scariest of them all! 400+ ft tall, slow climb to the top, and tilted seats? It got real seeing the world’s tallest slingshot next door shoot up to our height, even when we were only half up the tower.

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The drop was incredible though. With the exception of Falcon’s Fury, this was the best drop tower I had ever done. The airtime was awesome, and it just kept going!

I think we all needed a drink after that, so we scooted over to Star Bar (next to the Star Flyer) for some Jell-O shots before returning to the Airbnb for more debauchery. I think I was among the first people to bed… at 4 AM.


Saturday February 5th

While most people were leisurely that morning for some hungover breakfast, I left for SeaWorld Orlando early with our friend Erik. We arrived at the park at 11 AM for just a couple hours.

Manta is an old favorite of mine. Hard to believe it’s been over a decade since I first rode it! I hadn’t done it since 2017 (it was down for a paint job this past November), so it was great getting back on this again. Still love it!

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Completely forgot about how close the near misses are after the midcourse.

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Still love the queue as well!

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I didn’t ride Kraken, but my rides in November were a significant improvement since 2017, when it wasn’t in great shape. I know they did some work on it, so I’m really glad all that effort paid off. Since November, it’s received a sweet new color scheme. For what it’s worth, I liked the old one, but this was one of those “I didn’t ask for this but I’ll gladly take it.” (Sorry no photo! Use google :p)

Mako is still the king though. It has my second favorite drop after Skyrush, ESPECIALLY when I’m in the back row with a loose lap bar. And the perfectly crafted camelbacks lift my ass out of my seat a solid few inches.

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Ice Breaker opened for previews at around noon. Once you got past the passholder check, it ended up being a 10 min wait.

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The coaster was good… perhaps my favorite Premier coaster I’ve done… but the trains and restraints suck so much ass. When I first got a better look at them while waiting for the train ahead of us to load, I said “Oh no.” I don’t know why I was never bothered by them on other coasters, but perhaps that was because I did either front row or at least front of a car. We did back row here, and it was the dumbest thing trying to climb in between the seats and lap bar.

You see what I mean here? (Screenshotted this from a youtube vlog https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aACr5HQO9MY… hard to find photos of the trains with lap bars up, but also difficult to describe how tight they are without a photo)

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But the layout itself is solid. I was concerned that having four launches would be too gentle, but they were all actually pretty fun, and I guess going backwards first is a nice change. If anything, it makes the ride last longer for an otherwise short layout.

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Erik and I did the back to fully feel the spike, although it seems like the front two cars don’t get much out of it unfortunately.

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The double downs/ups with the launch track are good fun, and provide some rather strong airtime on the final couple of launches.

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The mini top hat also has good tug in the back.

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The rest of the layout is a mix of low bunny hills, Jr. immelmann, and some more twists and turns.

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My biggest problem was that I was still bothered by the restraints. Not so much the shoulder straps (seems like they can either be awful or absolutely redundant… latter for this ride), but the airtime was actually slightly uncomfortable in the lap bars. It wasn’t bad, but pretty distracting and made it difficult to truly enjoy the layout.

Overall it’s a good coaster, and is certainly worth getting a couple rides in on repeat visits. It’s hard to judge it on just one ride, but as of now I still prefer the B&Ms.

Photo from November.... it looks rather great from across the lake!

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Erik and I hiked back for one last ride on Mako, before leaving the park. Part of the reason we arrived at the park early was so we could pick up my friend Will, a college friend of mine, from the airport at 1:30. I convinced him to join us, and despite how overwhelming the goons can be, he had a great time at the parks and with the crew!

After a quick stop for some fast food, we went back to Islands of Adventure for more good stuff. I think I’ll pause it here before sharing some more Universal highlights.
 
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Hutch

Strata Poster
Bit late, but gotta continue with this…

I more or less gave Will a tour around Islands of Adventure, starting with Incredible Hulk.

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Apparently this ride has been running on nylon wheels over the past few months, because it’s been hauling! It was running fast in November, but I honestly feel like it’s gotten more intense since then.

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Such an intense first half of the layout. Just absolutely destroying you with positive g’s nonstop.

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It’s a great ride, but honestly I can’t ride it more than once in a row. It just kicks your ass. I think it might be the most intense B&M I’ve done now? It didn’t used to be like this.

So Spider-Man actually broke down while we were halfway through the cycle. When we stopped, the sound design, lighting, and screens were way out of sync. But the funniest part was the the way we went through the rest of the layout. I was expecting some sort of safety setting where the cars remain level with the ground, while slowly moving through the rest of the layout. Instead, the car still went through all the bumpy motions, but it was very stop-and-go. So you’d be still for a few seconds, then be thrown around a bit, then stop again while at an awkward orientation, and repeat! I thought it was hilarious and super cool. And luckily we received single-use expresses passes, which came in handy for the next day.

After that we just did more VelociCoaster. I took Will on the front row for his first ride, and we loved it. I thought I preferred the back row, but honestly the front is much better in the first half of the layout, especially for the surprise airtime in the dive loop.

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At this point we reunited with everyone else, and attempted to do a Hagrid’s night ride. This consistently always has the longest queue (typically over an hour), but get yourself a good group of friends and a drink (a bunch of of people had rather strong Mai Tais, while I was enjoying the “Dinoroar”) and it’s not too bad of a wait. Unfortunately the ride decided to **** itself 45 min into our wait, so we eventually ditched the queue to catch a sexy night ride on VelociCoaster.

The party at the Airbnb went even later that night, meaning that the next morning was a little more rough.


Sunday, February 6th

A group of us managed to roll up to Islands of Adventure at around 11 AM for more of the same stuff. Will and I broke off from the others to prioritize Hagrid’s Magical Creatures. Fortunately the ride operated much more smoothly, so we were able to get on in an hour.

I sat sidecar while I let Will take the motorbike for his first ride. This ride blew me away in November, even when I knew about the surprises. And the layout is actually pretty good. Lots of fun launches, turns, and directional changes keep things interesting, and of course the theming is top notch.

(Photos of Hagrid's were from November, since I didn't bother taking any this trip)

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My only drawback is that the bike seat is clearly more fun than the sidecar, meaning you’re not always guaranteed the best seat (the row honestly doesn’t really matter… you’re assigned anyway and it makes for a smooth loading/unloading process). Additionally… the queue is a slog to get through, unlike VelociCoaster’s, even if it’s only about 20-30 min longer. Minimal interaction with the coaster and endless corridors make it more challenging.

After that we did the other rides we skipped the day before. Some rapid fire thoughts:

Forbidden Journey had all its effects working (i.e. dragon breath and Whomping Willow), but the ride is starting to show its age. Even older rides like Spider-Man have smoother transitions and feel more immersive.

Despite the degrading animatronics on Jurassic Park River Adventure, the ride is still a delight. By chance, Will ended up sitting in the accessible seat in the back, and we had a loose lap bar (though his seat had a seatbelt).

I used to love Skull Island: Reign of Kong, but after a few rides on it it’s less special (but still enjoyable). I think it really comes down to the IP. We also cashed in our lone express pass to bypass the main queue.

Did a redemption ride on Spider-Man, and I think this and Transformers are my favorite dark rides among the two parks. Spider-Man’s flamethrower transition is the best element on all of them, but Transformers has more action sequences and a better sense of movement.

Hulk’s single rider was a walk-on. Went in thinking we would do two rides, but man that obliterates you. Was happy after one ride.

Some of us grabbed some much needed lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, along with a mojito. Honestly, I think the move with these parks is to dine at City Walk for lunch instead of dinner, especially if you want to prioritize night rides. The parks are typically slammed midday anway, so it’s a nice break to relax.

Continued on with the day with another ride on VelociCoaster and a night ride on Hagrid’s. Unfortunately Hagrid broke down again for 20 min while we were in line, but got our ride in at closing. So while we weren’t able to snag another VelociCoaster night ride afterward, this ride on Hagrid’s was a great ride to end the trip. I got my motorbike ride in, and halfway through I thought “yep, this is better than Fury.”

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Allow me to expand on that. I don’t rate Fury that highly, but that’s another story that I’ve told in the past. But Hagrid’s truly is the most fun coaster I’ve ever ridden. Even during the simple moments where I’m just cruising around on the layout, I have the biggest grin on my face. It’s truly a magical ride, no pun intended.

After thinking about it, I think Islands of Adventure has become my favorite theme park. It was already in elite status for me several years ago (last visit before this past November was 2017, so still with Dragon Challenge), but with Hagrid’s and now VelociCoaster, the quality has jumped up huge. Sure, you only have three good coasters (disregarding the kiddie crap), but you got one of the best coasters in the world, the most pure fun coaster in the world, and an intense, old-school machine… that’s all you really need! Then you got all the dark/flat/water rides which are honestly better than a typical supporting coaster lineup. Add all that with the immersive theming, park design, City Walk, and the best operations in any theme park, what more could you ask for?

Alright, so looking ahead, I got quite a bit in the cards for this year. It’s actually very possible I’ll be doing two separate Europe trips this summer (one mainly as a culture/tourist trip, and another core theme park trip), along with plenty more domestic trips throughout the year.

Got at least a couple months before I do any other theme parks. The next one will either be something in Spain, or a trip down to Busch Gardens Tampa for some Iron Gwazi action… that ride looks too good to wait more than a few months to ride it.
 
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Hutch

Strata Poster
So this initially wasn’t part of the plan. Long story short, I had a school-related event planned for this past weekend. Two weeks leading up to it, the event got pushed back. This allowed me to join some familiar faces to Stumble 325, the Buzzed Bars event at Carowinds. Of course, some of us added Busch Gardens Williamsburg the day before to redeem some spite from our visit last year, taking advantage of our SeaWorld passes.

Thursday, April 7th

@Snoo and @Youngster Joey picked me up from Richmond airport Thursday afternoon. Originally, we were gonna just relax in the evening and meet up with other friends that had arrived earlier, but Joey realized the night before that there was some opportunity for Platinum Pass Pantheon ERT after closing. We were on our way to Williamsburg anyway for our hotel, so of course we couldn’t pass up on some naughty night rides on the hot new cred.

The weather was looking really spotty throughout the day, so it was never a guarantee that things would remain open. We had plans to be at the park tomorrow, but had no plans for tonight so might as well try.

We arrived to Busch Gardens Williamsburg at 6PM, an hour before closing (the ERT was scheduled for 7:30 - 9:00). We got word from @LooperOne that everything had closed due approaching thunderstorms, with the chance of things clearing out by ERT.

We meet up with the others who were taking shelter in the Festhaus, and by the time we got there it started POURING. Shortly afterward, we were informed by a staff member of a tornado warning in the area, so we were escorted in the staff rehearsal dress room for 10 minutes. Okay then!

The weather calmed down a bit and pretty soon we were able to leave the building, so we made our way to Pantheon for the ERT. After visiting the park last year and seeing the ride closed, it was time for some redemption.

Between our group and other folks, there were maybe 20 people here for the ERT. The idea of getting nighttime ERT on this beast without leaving your seat was intoxicating.

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Alas, I’m the ride never opened. They teased us a few times with some test runs. But the first test run they launched, the train nearly stalled on the top hat due to high winds. Pantheon teased us even MORE when they cranked up the boost on the swing launch. It was flying over the top hat, but it’s a shame they wouldn’t let us ride it like that.

To be fair, the staff were actually pretty transparent about it. In order to operate it under the “normal” launch, they needed wind speeds of less than 20 mph for at least 10 minutes, and they were struggling to get a single minute.

In the end, we convinced them to hand us quick queues for Pantheon instead. Everyone got one ticket, but each ticket was good for four riders. So we were guaranteed multiple walk-ons tomorrow.

Feeling hungry, we found a pizza tavern in town, which turned out to be a pretty fun college bar. Our group took over a big table and slammed pizzas, beer, shots, and even did some karaoke! It was a great time.

Unexpected highlight of the trip? While waiting in the station for Pantheon, I recognized a familiar face. Turns out it was @Rollercoaster David, as well as lurker @MartyNZ! My first time meeting some CFers from abroad, and they even joined us at the tavern!

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Totally unplanned, what are the odds!

We left the bar at around midnight and crashed at the hotel. It was a great first night to the trip, despite visiting a park with a casual tornado warning and not getting any rides in.


Friday, April 8th


We arrived at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in time for opening (with much better weather). Most of us pretty much just needed Pantheon, so that was our priority for the morning, even though most of the crowds had the same idea.

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But the following events made for a pretty annoying start to the day.

We waited a few minutes for rope drop and made our way to Pantheon.

They held us at the entrance to Festa Italia. Staggered opening, which SeaWorld likes to do. You expect me to go ride Loch Ness Monster in the meantime?? Just let us in.

They let us through at 10:20. Head over to Pantheon. People are congregating at the bridge entrance. “Pantheon has an extended delay.” We wait it out for a bit but the staff hint that it’s gonna be longer than they thought.

Next priority is Alpengeist, since that was down during our visit last summer. We walked over to Germany. Wait. Staggered opening. Can’t go through until 10:45. It was 10:40 at this point so not too bad, but still.

We cross the bridge to Germany. We see Alpengeist testing. Thank god it’s not being a spiteful bitch again.

We figured we’d hit Verbolten on the way since it’s a big park. Go to the entrance. Maintenance issue. Onward to Alpengeist.

Get to Alpengeist. Not open yet. Staggered opening. 11AM. It was 10:56, so again, not too bad, but come on man. Enough of this already.

So it took an hour to finally ride something. Way too much stop and go, figuring out which rides/areas were opening. But enough of that. Let’s get it.

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It’s been 9 years since I’ve ridden Alpengeist. With the exception of some rides at Disney World, this is the longest I’ve gone between reriding a solid coaster. Far too long.

You can see the conflicting paint job here:

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We did a couple rides, back row and front row. It’s definitely a front row ride, an outlier for B&M inverts. It all comes down to the view, incredible speed (especially in the first half), and near misses throughout the ride.

I remembered the cobra roll being the ride’s best element 9 years ago (despite others claiming it’s rough), and it still rocks. It kicks your ass without being too shaky, especially in the front row.

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Alpengeist’s drawback is the pacing. After flying through the first half, the MCBR steals some of that speed. That limits the intensity in the remaining elements.

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Still a great ride though. It’s everything that Banshee wishes it was: smoothness for sure, as well as some intensity.

While on the lift hill, we caught a glimpse of Pantheon running. We made our way back over, while picking up Verbolten on the way.

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Hagrid’s Magical Creatures hasn’t completely ruined this ride for me. In fact, what Verbolten has over Hagrid is some solid moments of intensity, particularly in the indoor portion. There’s some legit forces in those turns, and the drop track provides much better ejector airtime. The latter portion after the bridge is a bit rattly, but I found it more comedic. Love this ride.

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By the power of the gods, Pantheon was finally running. This coaster is such a tease. Spiting us last summer, showing us the goods last night, maintenance issue in the morning, but now it was time to ride.

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It was billed at a 35 min wait, which was fairly accurate, but mainly because we waited for the back row. Ironically, it probably benefited from the delayed opening, because the hype for this ride has died down significantly. Even then, as great as the first ride was, I couldn’t help but feel something was a little off.

It’s certainly a strange coaster, what with the banked bunny hills, the disconnected LSMs in the swing launch, and the outerbank which is probably a little too tall. It might’ve just been the first ride, but things got better the more we kept riding it and trying different seats.

I wouldn’t say any of the launches are that powerful, but they’re just meant to get things going. I’d go as far as saying the first launch has more of a kick than the swing launch, but it’s far from a highlight.

The first inversion is a solid start. The floaty hangtime works really well with the open seats, much like VelociCoaster's immelmann and dive loop.

I think people were expecting awkward airtime in those bunny hops, but it’s actually more laterals than I thought. If you let the ride do its thing and enjoy it, it gently throws you around side to side.

The main gimmick is the highlight. There isn’t any airtime over the first forward boost, but launching backwards over that airtime hill is the real kicker. Serious ejector right there that catches you off guard. I audibly reacted every time.

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Unlike something like Superman: Escape from Krypton (or even Ice Breaker), Pantheon actually sends you up the spike quite well, providing some incredible views of the peeps down below. Then it’s back over for another wild ejector moment before entering the top hat.

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On paper, the top hat should be better than VelociCoasters, mainly due to the steeper angle and use of terrain. But it crawls over much slower, so the airtime in the back row might not be as sustained as VC’s. But the front is actually pretty great over the top. Perhaps not as much airtime, but it’s the hang and view looking down that gets you.

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I think we all expected the outerbank to not be as wild as we had previously hoped, but the laterals and hangtime you get are still pretty cool. And then the stall is actually pretty similar to VelociCoaster’s, except this one has a few cool headchopper effects. I think I still prefer the VC stall, probably because it’s taken at a quicker pace.

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Beyond that is a pretty fun high-speed S-bend before another heavily banked hill into the brakes.

I know some others have wished it was a little longer, but I actually think the length is fine. It does quite a lot, and the swing launch helps lengthen the ride time. Couple of inversions, some fantastic ejector moments, big sweeping elements, low to ground turns, great visuals. On paper, it’s everything you need. Except for the surrounding theming.

Actually, I’m not so much bothered by the theming (not all Busch coasters have any great theming in the queue or station… think of Nessie, Apollo, Tempesto, etc), so much the lack of pedestrian interaction. The queue is blocked by a tall fence, so the only decent views of the whole ride are the stairs leading up to the station. For a ride with such a visual spectacle like the spike, it’s a shame the park hasn’t planned out any sort of access/viewing path in the middle of the plot (thinking of Fonix’s viewing area in the middle of it’s layout). That’s a big reason why VelociCoaster is such an elite ride. Not only because of the theming, but the interaction it has with the peeps.

That being said, it’s still a fantastic ride, and the best in the park now. I got five rides total, with some queued in the standby queue while also taking advantage of our Quick Queues, which was always a one train wait. As you can tell, I definitely prefer VelociCoaster (we all did in fact). Even beyond the theming, VC has a bit more to it and flows much nicer.

In between our Pantheon rides, we got a ride in on Apollo’s Chariot. And man, this made me kinda sad. I know it’s among the weaker of the B&M hypers, I know it wasn’t running it’s best last year, but this was by far the weakest ride I’ve ever had on it, even in the back row. The only real airtime you get on it are on the major drops: thinking of the first drop (which is actually great in the back), drop of the MCBR, and second drop into the ravine. It’s still a solid ride, but it made me put Verbolten back over it.

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Pretty soon it was time to make the drive down to Charlotte (we skipped Griffon, because, eh, dive machines aren't really that great anymore). We left at about 3:00, and with a stop at Taco Bell, we arrived to the Springhill Suites (onsite Carowinds hotel) at around 8:30. We met up with more friends, had some Culver’s for dinner, and spent time chilling and drinking on the patio outside the hotel.

Up next, is Fury still overrated?
 

Youngster Joey

Strata Poster
I still stand bedhind what I said. I had more fun on Pantheon than I did VC. VC is the better ride though.

Apollo's really bummed me out too. Don't know if they changed something but it just doesn't run like it used too. A shame to see my first big coaster in such disarray now.
 

MartyNZ

Roller Poster
Was good bumping into you guys! I'm going to have to do a trip report myself now. I've been inspired, however I definitely don't have the patience to do it properly like you did! I also agree on most points you've made here. Pantheon is definitely a solid ride. Managed to get 17 rides in total over 2 and a half days, which makes it the second most ridden coaster on my USA trip. I obviously couldn't get enough of it so went back for more when it wasn't broken down (and it always seems to be down!)
 

Hutch

Strata Poster
Saturday, April 9th

Most of us who were here for the meetup (over 50 people) stayed at the Springhill Suites for the weekend, onsite at Carowinds. It was a pretty nice hotel (far from your budget choice during a theme park trip), and super convenient when it came to location. That meant we wouldn’t have to deal with figuring out carpools, and people could enter and leave the park whenever they pleased.

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Most people were up for breakfast by the time I got down there at 8:45. We started heading over to the park at around 9:15. Even though that was way too early for the 10:00 AM opening, there was no reason to wait around at the hotel when we could just congregate around a giga coaster instead.

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Even though I was trying to persuade people to hit Copperhead first (the only major cred I needed), I couldn’t resist splitting off from the group, who were much more interested in the Big Daddy.

Of course, they had some problems getting the damn thing open in time, so some folks did Hurler (I was like **** that), and the drop tower in the meantime.

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Still unable to convince people to do other creds, we waited it out for Fury 325 to open. Things finally got moving at around 11:00, and it didn’t take long for us to get on the ride.

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So a couple things about my previous Fury experience. Before this trip, I had Fury ranked at #24. Highest it’s ever been was #17 when I first rode it in 2018. Part of it was that I had a slight headache throughout the day due to lack of sleep, and part of it was me convincing myself that the layout wasn’t completely for me. Well, after getting back on it, I realized it was all down to me just not feeling well. I immediately had a much better time on it compared to my first visit.

So forget any previous statement I’d made about not being a fan of the layout, specifically the first few turns. This thing just flies through those first few elements, giving you good floater in the banking transitions, the perfect amount of positive g forces in between, and an incredible sense of speed.

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Of course, who could forget about the first drop. It’s just huge and gives off great airtime, arguably the coolest airtime moment of the ride. Probably my third favorite drop after Skyrush and Mako in the back seat.

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The famous treble clef still kicks too. Strong forces in the turnaround, and a bit of laterals and airtime as it exits. The sideways airtime isn’t quite as good as I remember it being, but it still yanks you as the train tumbles back down (and the tunnel is a very fun effect).

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Love how it legitimately looks like a treble clef from this angle too.

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Pretty soon it gets to the real good stuff with the three camelbacks, which are the closest things B&M has to ejector, besides maybe some of those low speed hills you see on the newer hypers/gigas. We were also pleased to the the trim not biting on most of our rides.

The helix is still by far the weakest part of the ride, saved only by that absurd headchopper with one of the supports you got towards the end. This element overall is more of a breather, and I’d be okay if it was taken out completely.

And of course, it’s such a smooth ride. I even wasn’t bothered by the seatbelts underneath the clamshells.

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Our friend from Thrilling Moment Photography (check him out on Instragram, he’s got some great ****), managed to capture us on our first ride. If you look closely, you might recognize some familiar faces in the front row. :)

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Paying my respect to the worst coaster in the world.

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Copperhead Strike was not here during my last visit, so that was my next priority. I’m a big fan of the pathway placement and interactions this ride has.

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I will say I was quite disappointed after my first ride. I honestly wasn’t expecting the ride itself to be all that special, but I was moreso really excited to try out my first Mack launch. I rode in the front row during my first ride, and I guess it was the “first ride woes” we tend to have on fancy new coasters, but that first ride didn’t do a whole lot to me other than a couple of elements.

That being said, I was able to get a few more rides in at later points, and each ride got better than the last. In the end, I was convinced that it was a genuinely good ride, but far from world class.

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Some thoughts on the layout…

I keep forgetting that the jojo roll exists. I don’t dislike it, but I’m not the biggest supporter of it either. The hangtime was pretty legit, and thankfully the slick lap bar kept things from becoming too uncomfortable. But I wouldn’t have been upset if this didn’t exist in the layout to begin with.

The showroom for the first launch was laughably bad. Everything shown on screen was super blurry, and the poor sound quality made things difficult to understand. I got four rides total, and could never quite figure out what was going on, both with this scene and what overall theme was. Did snakes get into the beer keg or something? Honestly they would’ve been better off sacking this showroom and putting the actual physical sets in the station, which lacks any sort of theming.

So I knew that Mack launches are far from forceful, but this was weaker than I ever expected, especially for the second launch. They felt more like accelerating your car rather than pushing you back in your seat. That being said, I did notice a slight, sudden burst for the start of the first launch after a few rides, but that’s all the energy it has. But overall, these launches aren’t bad, and they can be fun.

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The first loop is a highlight, probably the best inversion. There’s some playful forces in the start of the loop, and the hangtime here is much more welcome. The visuals with the threaded Stengel dive, which acts as a near miss of sorts, was also unexpectedly cool.

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This airtime hill has a nice pop, capping off a pretty solid starting sequence with the launch and loop. These three elements make for some pretty solid variation of forces.

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The corkscrew is fine, probably the weakest inversion outside the jojo roll. It’s pretty tight, so it definitely moves you around, but it’s nothing special.

I’ve grown to enjoy these turns out back, both before the second launch and towards the end of the cycle. They don’t do a whole lot, but it’s mostly fun and smooth transitions. Luckily, they don’t last too long, otherwise I probably would’ve gotten bored (that seems to be the case for Icon from what I gather).

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I mentioned the second launch has no force here, and that includes airtime. Of my four rides, I might’ve gotten some weak floater on one of them, but don’t expect to be lifted out of your seat.

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Then we got some more hangtime in the cutback and second loop. The second loop is very similar to the first one, but the threaded track is a bit further down so it’s not quite the upside down headchopper like the first one.

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The turn between the cutback and the loop, and the stengel dive afterward are when the coaster finally tries to crank it up a bit. As I expected, the stengel dive turned out to be a highlight, rising up and dumping you sideways in a quick transition.

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Then you got more turns to round out the ride, but there’s a sneaky bunny hill before the brakes which caught me by surprise on my first ride. Nice little pop of airtime there.

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So I went from being underwhelmed to… I guess “whelmed” on the ride. I’m glad I was able to get a few goes on this, it is certainly more of a “fun” ride than an “intense” one. But if anything, it’s lowered my expectations on Helix, which I am actually planning to ride this summer.

And here’s another photo of us on ride, courtesy of Thrilling Moment again!

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Like Fury, Afterburn was somewhat of another redemption ride from my last visit. It was probably because of my headache, but I thought the rides was slightly rattly. I could only manage two rides then.

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It was so good this time around! Started off in the back row and no problem whatsoever with the smoothness. Every element is great, even the first drop in the back row.

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Normally I find the zero g roll the best element in B&M inverts, and while this was a great one, I actually found the batwing and corkscrew even better.

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The entry to the batwing in the back right seat is wild (it’s a shame you can’t really walk down there though).

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This hill over the station doesn’t actually do a whole lot (maybe some weak floater), but I’ll gladly take it over a MCBR. I’m a big fan of B&Ms that don’t have a midcourse.

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Was great fun. I kept coming back to this multiple times.

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Some rather unfortunate Peanuts theming:

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We go some lunch at Harmony Hall, and honestly this reaffirmed my previous belief that Carowinds has some of the worst park food you can get. I got some chicken fingers, and I tried to finish it because I knew I needed the energy later, but I couldn’t get myself to do it.

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Our whole group managed to regroup for a takeover on Plants vs. Zombies, which was something that I had skipped in the past. This was such a weird shooter. Everyone’s basically in an auditorium of sorts, straddling some motorbike-type seats that sometimes rotates its pitch. It was actually a team game which made it fun (we took over the ride’s whole capacity, so that made competition fun). The shooter ride and tech itself was okay. It was basically just a videogame that looked like it was made over a decade ago, with low frame rates on all the characters. It was a fun distraction though with everyone there.

After some rerides on Copperhead and Afterburn, we made it over to Intimidator for what was essentially the last “good” coaster in the park.

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Now before this trip I ranked Intimidator as my second least favorite B&M hyper (Apollo’s Chariot being at the bottom), but even then I used to really like this. Despite the poor layout, I had some really great airtime on those three big camelbacks, and I wasn’t too bothered by the trims. This time around, not so much.

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I’m not sure if the trims were hitting differently this time around (pretty sure they were hitting last time), but the airtime seemed weaker than before. It was still there, but the other hypers had better airtime (except Apollo).

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And the ride is essentially over after the third camelback. Everything after that is a waste of space. So combine the relatively weak airtime with the poor layout, you have a ride that doesn’t do a whole lot for me. Especially when you could just ride Fury instead.

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But that being said, a weak B&M hyper is still better than most coasters, so there’s some enjoyment to be had. But of the four “good” coasters at the park, this came out in the bottom.

While waiting in line for Intimidator, our friend Erik had shared with the chat that he was willing to pawn off his kid for the +1 on Wilderness Run. A few of us went over there taking turns with the poor kid. To sum it all up, Erik’s son muttered with “terrible” when the ride op asked the train how our ride is.

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But hey! Unexpected +1!

It was around 4:30 in the afternoon at this point. Most of the crew had walked back to the hotel for some down time and beers. I did a quick stroll around the park by myself picking up a couple re rides on Afterburn and Fury (there was a lot of faff in the morning with most of the group, so I wanted to make up some lost time with some rerides on my own).

I rendezvoused with everyone back at the hotel for some beers, once again chilling on the patio.

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Most of us were feeling pretty good after a couple hours. After the sun went down, it was time for some buzzed night rides on Fury!

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It was a grand ol’ time. We managed about five night rides, including one of the last rides of the night. In fact, as our train pulled back into the station, most of train, like a bunch of goons, were chanting “One more ride! One more ride!”. So naturally, the ride op on the mic goes, “Alright, you guys want another ride?” and sends us back around! Didn’t even have to leave my seat in the back row!

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So Fury definitely redeemed itself after first riding it four years ago. The more I kept riding throughout the day the higher it climbed in my rankings. I ended up settling for Number 7. I know that’s still lower than what most people rank, but my Top 5 is pretty sacred at this point.

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The park closed, but more people were down to continue drinking the hotel of course. Then I ran into an interesting dilemma. I had plans to fly out at 7 AM the next morning, with a lovely 5 AM Uber scheduled. I went to update my boarding pass so ensure I had TSA pre check, to which I find out that my flight tomorrow got cancelled because Jet Blue decided to **** itself. Instead, they put me on a flight with a noon departure on Monday.

Obviously it was pretty annoying at first, as it meant I had to spend an extra night on lodging and miss work on Monday, but honestly it worked out for the better. I’m currently working part time this spring two days a week (Mondays and Wednesdays), so luckily I was able to make up that missed day of work later in the week. The big thing was that I was able to spend another full day with friends, and another day full of coasters. We don’t get to see each other that often, so that extra day was pretty precious. Honestly, I can’t really complain.

The 5 AM Uber I had reserved would’ve cost me $50 (it’s ridiculous, but there’s not many other options), so that helped me pay for another park ticket. And a couple other folks were planning on staying at the hotel for a 3rd night, so I was able to crash with them and keep things relatively cheap.

And the last silver lining to the flight fiasco? I got to join Buzzed Bars in a walk-back tour of Fury the next morning! That’ll be up next.
 

MartyNZ

Roller Poster
I was at Carowinds a few days before I met you guys at BGW. When I walked to the park from my hotel and saw Fury testing before opening, it blew me away at just how much it was hauling through the layout. It was my first time seeing a B&M Giga in action. (Have not been to Canada's Wonderland and did see Orion almost finished just sitting there on my KI visit in 2019). It was quite a different sight compared to the B&M Hypers. Absolutely loved Fury. We also got a last ride of the night and chanting one more ride, to which they sent us again. It was one of the highlights of my trip and we had a good buzz going on with some tailgating and beers that day/night with some good company. A moment i'll never forget.
 

Hutch

Strata Poster
Sunday, April 10th

Today will be more of a photo dump than anything. As you’d expect, the walk-back tour for Fury 325 gave the opportunity for some unique views, so there’ll be plenty of photos.

They let our group in at 9:30 AM and escorted us over to the ride.

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We went through the gift shop before being let through the access gate, just before exit stairs.

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Counter weight for the chain lift. You can actually see this from the main queue itself on the other side of the fence, but you wouldn’t know it was there unless you actually looked for it. Think our guide said it was around 4,000 lbs.

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Electrical room underneath the station. Definitely something I take for granted a lot for coasters. Easy to forget how complex these systems can be. This photo in particular was a look at the low voltage.

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Now heading out back out with the lift hill and drop.

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They had all these bits of trains and theming casually lying around.

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Firehawk train right here, likely for spare parts for Nighthawk.

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Some folks thought that this was an old train for either Carolina Cyclone, or from Vortex.

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Should've grabbed one of these as a souvenir:

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It’s easy to appreciate the size of this giga, but one you walk underneath the belly of the beast, you realize even more how much of a monster it is.

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The shaft.

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Pretty soon the ride opened to the public and sent some riders out.

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Alright, you've probably had enough haven't you. This was definitely a cool opportunity, and one of the highlights of the weekend.

While we were there we did a ride on Fury, and it was HAULING. Even in 50 degrees in the morning.

As you’d expect, we got more rides in on Fury, Copperhead, Afterburn, and Intimidator throughout the day. Fun stuff all around.

Today was much sunnier than yesterday, and Intimidator was looking gorgeous with its new paint job.

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Some of us actually did some other rides we didn’t do the day before. This includes my first time on a Skycoaster. I would’ve loved to try out one of these over the years, but didn’t want to pay extra in addition to general admission. Well this was only $15 per person with three people ($20 for two, $25 solo), and it was definitely worth giving it a shot!

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Was somewhat terrifying being raised up backwards, and you have a few seconds of genuine free fall at the very start of the drop before the cable “catches” you. Definitely something I would do again, but don’t need to get carried away all the time.

A couple others did the Slingshot, but I sat out as I didn’t want to spend more money on rides. From what I hear, Skycoasters are much better anyway.

I also convinced some people to do the Mountain Gliders, the park’s flying scooters flat. This was one of the new models with are more restricting when it comes to snapping, but even then I was able to get a solid three snaps or so. Man, I didn’t know how much I missed these things. So much fun! It put a big smile on my face. If only it had a longer ride cycle (just as I got the thing going it started slowing down), it’d be a better ride than Intimidator and Copperhead.

We also did a ride on Goldrusher in the afternoon, because who doesn’t like a good Arrow mine train?

Ok some overall thoughts about Carowinds. Now, I had a blast of a weekend, but I don’t think Carowinds is really that great of a park. While the coaster selection has seen some improvements, it’s still mediocre considering the number of creds in the park. The Top 4 are obviously worthy, but other than a couple decent supporting coasters, the rest of it is pretty crap. It was fine this visit because I didn’t have to deal with cred running, so you can definitely keep yourself busy re-riding the good stuff.

But beyond those good coasters, I don’t have many other positive things to say about the park. The operations are hit or miss. There were moments where they were stacking Fury even when they only had two trains, and Afterburn also had slow dispatches.

The park isn’t particularly pretty. Desperately needs more trees. And the food is ass. But it’s got Fury, so that’s all you need, right?

Ok, next park is actually coming up in a couple weeks. I was planning on hitting Busch Gardens Tampa this weekend, but flight prices were not good, so that’ll have to be later in the year. Instead, I’ll be off to Spain!
 

Hutch

Strata Poster
As I mentioned in some previous posts, some friends and I journeyed off on a graduation trip across the Atlantic. Across two weeks, we did Madrid, Barcelona, down to Morocco for a few days in Marrakesh, and back up driving along the south of France. This was not meant to be a coaster trip (none of my friends on this trip were enthusiasts), however Port Aventura was obviously a bucket list park for me, so that was a must visit. But that’ll be the next part.

Since we were only in Madrid for two and a half days, I didn’t set aside time for either Parque de Atracciones or Parque Warner Madrid. Neither park had anything super attractive, however PdA seemed super easy to visit via Metro so I kept that open as a possibility if we (or rather I, since the rest of my friends wouldn’t bother with theme parks on a culture trip) had time. I will say, none of the coasters looked good here, but the accessibility and cheap entry fee ($36) made the visit more enticing.

Thursday, May 19th

On our second day in Madrid we spent most of our day in El Retiro and visiting El Prado. By around 4 PM, my friends needed to eat (they hadn’t had lunch yet while I was able to grab something in the park) and also wanted to rent some rowboats, which I wasn’t super interested in. So I was like, “should I just go get some creds right now?”

So I arrived at Parque de Atraciones de Madrid at 5 PM for a quick cred run. Super easy bus/metro ride from the museum, with a station right next to the park. This will sound cliche, but it was pretty surreal being back inside an international theme park after 8 years.

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Also, creds baby!!

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Started off with TNT Tren de la Mina, which took about 10 min to get on as it was one train ops. This was pretty good for what it was! There was a solid effort at theming and it had some fun turns. Pretty legit family coaster, and I didn’t realize until later that it was a Gerstlauer and “only” ten years old. After Firechaser Express, the Gerst family rides continue to impress me.

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The suspended kiddie coaster, Padrinos Voladores, was a stark reminder of why I stopped riding kiddie coasters when I’m by myself (I’ll happily ride if I’m with a group of goons). Only reason I did this was for the uniqueness factor, but it was much more tame than I thought.

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I hadn’t done a kiddie cred by myself in three years, and this was by far the most shameful I’ve ever felt. Waiting to board the next train I was thinking, “What the **** am I doing here?”. The ironic thing is that this actually would’ve been a riot with group of goons, as the swinging hairpin turns were actually kind of hilarious.

Yes, I skipped the other stock kiddie cred. Wasn’t interested. “BuT PLuS oNe!”. Ok, just visit more theme parks then lol.

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Went to the other side of the park, saving some creds for later as everything seemed to have a decent queue. 85% of the park guests were teenagers, many of which seemed to be part of a school group. There were many instances of line cutting, particularly with groups of kids queueing directly in front of me. If it weren’t for the language barrier (I can put together phrases in Spanish but not enough to hold a conversation or understand what others are saying), I might’ve made an effort to prevent this (staff did not seem to care either).

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I didn’t realize that I had entered the back park entrance (near the Nickelodeon land). This location makes more sense for a main entrance (it looked better than what the photo suggests).

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Next up was Tarántula, which was a surprisingly good spinner! This was easily the best Maurer spinner I’ve done, and maybe one of the best overall (though I wouldn’t say that’s a high bar to pass)? I was impressed with the height and the use of terrain. It had some good laterals and a couple of surprising drops, particularly the turn after the second MCBR.

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There’s always the risk of a spiteful cred, and on this trip it was Tornado. I was honestly a little bummed I couldn’t ride this, as it’s quite the exclusive cred with only two of these Intamin SLCs around. I never saw it being better than any B&M invert, but it has potential to be a decent ride.

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This whole section was also pretty neglected, with no other rides nearby here and lots of overgrown grass.

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Retracing my steps, I braved the queue for Vértigo. This ended up being the longest I’ve ever waited for a wild mouse (25 min), and it was also the first time I had seen a wild mouse have a delay. I don’t know if someone tried riding with their backpack or what, but next thing I know I saw a staff member walking down the lift hill with one.

Another quirk they did with this ride: they had four trains running, but would load all four up at a time instead of whenever a train got back to the station like we’re used to. It was pretty awkward system, as you’d be in a standstill for a few minutes, then move a decent chunk, then repeat.

And you already know what the ride is like. Not gonna waste any time on it.

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The mouse what my 249th cred, so obviously I needed something…special…for my 250th. And given the rather poor coaster lineup, Abismo was the best option. If I can’t do a quality cred for a milestone, I might as well make it unique.

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And unique it was. Maurer sky loops are pretty uncommon among the western hemisphere (although I just found out there’s one in ****ing Arkansas), and this one obviously has the extended layout.

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Quirkiness continues with supports casually extending in the middle of the queue.

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At low capacity and it being the most daunting coaster in the park, it had a slow queue as expected. Fortunately, it didn’t take longer than 30 min, and I managed to get on earlier as they needed a single rider when I was a couple train waits away. Luckily the guy I ended up riding with snagged the front row, fitting for my milestone.

So Abismo was both better and worse than I expected. To start, the inverted lift hill is torture. I expected the hangtime to be bad and uncomfortable, but I wasn’t expecting myself to go light headed. Just awful.

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Luckily the inverted heartline roll was faster than I expected (for comparison, it’s not as slow as the Sky Rocket IIs), but I wasn’t recovered from the hangtime yet, so to me the ride wasn’t enjoyable until the bottom of the drop.

So here’s where the ride was surprisingly good. Lots of positive g forces to start to the point where I’m greying out up through the Jr. Immelmann. I’m usually not a fan of greying out, but I was mostly just impressed in the moment that the ride had this much power. And luckily it wasn’t as unsettling as Intimidator 305’s first turn.

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Then of course you have a nice pop of airtime, followed by the overbank turn into what’s sort of a double down air hill, much like you’d see on modern Intamins and RMCs. That element was way ahead of its time.

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And it is surprising the height the train sustains as it gets caught most the way up the lift hill. Vekoma boomerang style, instead of putting in some brakes in the station.

I’m really glad I got the opportunity to try the extended layout. Knowing how bad the hangtime is, the standard Sky Loops elsewhere must be among worst coasters you can imagine. The extended portion sort of redeems Abismo, to the point where I’ll prefer it over the Sky Rocket II’s and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, the only other X-Car I’ve ridden (Rockit doesn't really have any redeemable features and it just rattles its way through the course).

Selfie with the milestone:

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And that was it for the park! Even with a bit of queuing, I was in and out of the park within 2 hours. My visit was timed very well, as I got back to our Airbnb with enough time to rendezvous with my friends later that night.

I went in with low expectations for Parque de Atracciones, and… it exists. It was never going to be much more than a 2 hour cred run, and it was fine honestly. Actually, I was kind of impressed with some of the theming and landscaping efforts, so it wasn't completely an American style concrete park (though far from the quality of typical European parks). And with plans to do more international parks this summer, I’m glad I got this one out of the way first.

Up next, an actual good park!
 

cocoa

Mega Poster
nothing better than sneaking in a little theme park on a trip where you weren't planning on it or expecting to. always feel like I'm doing something naughty
 

Hutch

Strata Poster
nothing better than sneaking in a little theme park on a trip where you weren't planning on it or expecting to. always feel like I'm doing something naughty
PdA was always a possibility, however I definitely did something much naughtier later on in this trip...
 

Hutch

Strata Poster
Time for the more coveted park.

Saturday, May 21st

We were in Barcelona for the weekend, before flying to Morocco Monday morning. I decided to hit the park on Saturday, so in the unlikely event that I’d have issues with transportation on the way back, I had Saturday night to deal with it instead of the night before our flight. The combined ticket for Port Aventura and Ferrari Land was only around €60, far cheaper than I expected. So I spent another €40 euros on a fast pass (something I rarely do), since I’d be doing a day trip from the city.

To sum things up, the park was amazing, but the visit wasn’t entirely stress free.

To start, I planned to buy my train ticket the morning of at Barcelona-Sants. I checked the Renfe schedule leading up to the trip, however when I tried confirming the night before, the website did not display anything (didn’t help that our airbnb’s service/internet was bad). My only hint was Apple Maps showing me an 8:30 AM departure when looking up transit directions to the park. At this point it was 1:30 AM and I needed some sort of sleep, so I planned to figure it out early the next morning.

Woke up at 7 AM and made it to the train station by 7:45. Upon buying a ticket, I was a little worried at first as I didn’t see any trains for Salou-Port Aventura, however luckily I was able to get an attendant to find one for me (turns out I was just at the wrong ticket machine) for the 8:30 AM train.

Waited about 30 min on the platform, and things got a tad concerning when 80% of the people on the platform boarded the same train. Super glad I had a fast pass prepared…

The train ride was lovely though.

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However, at a stop about a half hour from Salou, there was an announcement in Spanish. All I could make out was “autobús,” before everyone on the train stood up to exit. Seems there may be some track work going on, so we had to complete the journey by shuttle bus.

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During the 30 min drive, I confirmed the schedule for a return train, however things were unclear whether I’d need another shuttle bus or not. But I wasn’t worrying about that now.

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I wasn’t quite ready to go in though. I realized the night before that I accidentally booked my ticket and fast pass for the next day, instead of today. So I took a little time at guest relations to get that sorted out, but no issues there (turns out my entry ticket was okay to use, was mostly concerned about my fast pass, which they gave me a card for).

Alright I know, that was a lot of travel faff and things to figure out, but now we’re in business.

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I was pretty leisurely entering Ferrari Land. I ended up retracing my steps to find a bathroom, and trying to figure out a locker for my backpack (this was the first time I had brought one with me inside a theme park...wanted to bring essential items like extra water and a charger), but didn’t have any euro coins to purchase one (card was not accepted). Turns out I didn’t need a locker anyway, as the rides are very accommodating for bags and are well protected as you ride.

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Finally got in line for Red Force at 11:30 AM. The queue was advertised for a 40 min wait, but it turned out to be an hour, and that was with the single rider queue towards the end. I only got the fast pass for PA, so I was fine waiting this long for this cred and being leisurely for the rest of the day.

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Red Force was a lot of fun! I rode in the middle, and while there was an expected rattle, it was nowhere near as bad as Kingda Ka. I enjoyed it just fine. The LSM is definitely a step down from the hydraulic launch when it comes to force, but still really fun. And the noise it makes is wild, sounding like an F1 car.

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Lots of force going up and down, great views at the top, and fun drop. Obviously prefer the 270 roll on Dragster, but understandable that they don’t have enough space for that here.

The brake run though was really weird, if a little uncomfortable. Your body does a couple of awkward lurches forward during the deceleration, before hitting that random incline upward, and then more brakes.

But overall great stuff. I still prefer the likes of Dragster, Storm Runner, and Stealth when it comes to the classic launch-into-top hat Intamins with minimal layouts, but you can’t go wrong with this.

I went up to the grand stand after my ride for some shots. Obviously they took a page out of Dragster with the theming, and they arguably did a better job with it here.

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My only wish was that you had more views/interactions from inside the queue. Sunlight protection is obviously important, but it blocked views of the top hat to keep you entertained while waiting.

But then I realized you’re free to wander at the base of the top hat. Great views here.

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Ok, Ferrari Land was a one-and-done park for me (again, no more kiddie coasters for me), so it was time for the much more respected Port Aventura.

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With the fast pass handy, I essentially did the creds as I saw them, starting with Furious Baco.

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I heard mixed things about this, but I think I must’ve slept on this ride because it was so good! I wound up second to last row in the left outside seat, and yes, it rattled like hell (moreso than Red Force), but for the most part, the rattle didn’t get in the way.

I loved the pre-show and launch. Seeing the dude get tangled up in the machines was hilarious. That, along with the Velocicoaster-esque tease with the train inching backwards and forwards before the launch got me real hyped up. And THERE’S the hydraulic launch that Red Force was missing.

And man this thing is not messing around. You’re pinned to your seat, and while it is rattling, the ride did something I wasn’t expecting. This has the best near misses with the terrain on any coaster I’ve done. First it’s the trench towards the start. But then that in-line twist? You’re upside down and you can almost touch the plant above your head. Holy ****.

Then you have a nice Mako-esque finale with the pond out front. Another lovely near miss with the water (that is if you're on the left side).

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Really good ride, in fact it ended up being my second favorite coaster in the park. Love the vineyard theme too. Why bother selling merch at the exit when you could just buy bottles of wine instead?

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Great start to the park, in what turned out to be one of my favorite areas of the park as well.

Made the journey up for some of the more attractive creds out back. And man, this park is HUGE. Even at a consistent pace (which I wasn’t at this point), it takes a good 20 min to get from Furious Baco to the back of the park.

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Skipped Dragon Khan for now as the fast pass queue wasn’t totally a walk on. Went to Shambhala instead for the most anticipated coaster of the trip.

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This also had a decent amount of fast passers, but it only took 5 min. At this point I was super glad I had one, as the queue was listed as an hour and forty minutes, and the ops seem to prioritize fast passers over the standby queue (I do think they overestimate the wait times to coerce people to buying fast passes, but it was hard to tell sometimes).

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I rode the third car to start. The way I rank B&M hypers is simple. Is it smooth? Check. Is the airtime good? Check. Is the layout good (i.e. opportunities for airtime?)? Check again. And that’s Shammy’s strongest aspect: the layout.

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I love how the MCBR is practically at the end of the ride. This makes the pacing undisturbed for the majority of the length. But then you have things like the ampersand, which was a lot better than I thought it would be. It provides some decent forces while also some unexpected head choppers with its own track.

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And then you have three camelbacks in a row, actually make that four hills in a row with the speed hill to start. No turns, overbanks, MCBRs, or other BS in between.

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The airtime wasn’t as elite as Mako on this first ride, but was about on par with all the other B&M hypers that had great airtime. Combine that with the smoothness and the best layout on any B&M hyper, Shambhala easily becomes my second favorite of the bunch. Plus the ocean views on the lift hill? Please.

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Circled back to do Dragon Khan. The queue didn’t seem to change but again, it only took 5 min to get through with the fast pass.

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Dragon Khan is another great example and confirmation that the B&M sit-downs are better than the floorless. And this thing is intense! The intensity is as consistent as Incredible Hulk, if not more intense. However, this one rattled a bit more, without being too much of an issue. Definitely not a ride to marathon.

As is the case for 90% of the B&M loopers, the zero g roll is the clear standout here. I rode somewhere in the middle, but even then it that inversion just ****s you up.

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The rest of the layout is pretty standard stuff, but it’s long and it’s just constant intensity and forces. 8 inversions is a lot, and if the ride kept going it’d be too much.

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I still prefer Kumba and Hulk over this. I have many more rides on them and I find them a tad smoother. Now all I need is Wildfire to complete the set!

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Another cool thing is the interaction between Khan and Shambhala. More often than not, both rides would be climbing the lift hill at the same time, allowing riders to wave at each other as you pass by. :) And Shambhala’s quicker ascent makes up for the taller lift, meaning that both trains may end up dropping at the same time.

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I was getting kinda hungry at this point, but the dining options in China were pretty packed, so I kept on the cred run with the plan to stop if I see something easy.

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Selfie with the iconic view.

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Eventually I found Diablo - Tren de la Mina. This is a really cute Arrow mine train. I wouldn’t say it’s the most exciting of layouts, but I really liked the interaction with the log flume and use of terrain.

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Arrow mine trains are a guilty pleasure of mine. It’s hilarious when you’re approaching terrible shaping in the track, and you’re like “Oh no why” in preparation for the transition, but you’re smiling the whole way. Especially for the double helix at the end.

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This was also when I learned more about Port Aventura’s bag policy. So basically if it’s a wooden or family coaster, you can just casually ride with your backpack?? Alright, don’t mind if I do. I’d probably prefer to ride without the slight doubt or having to ensure that my bag won’t fall out, but I appreciate how the park just doesn’t give a **** about it and is cool with sending you on your way.

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Continuing on with the park loop.

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I didn’t bother with the drop tower (or any other flat rides for that matter). The theming around the base of this model was pretty impressive, but the ride itself looked pretty standard. In hindsight, it probably would’ve been worth giving a go for the views.

Still on the hunt for food, I began to get a little concerned as it seemed like everything was slammed. There was a HUGE line to get into the main dining hall nearby. I didn’t dare other than peaking inside to see how packed it was.

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I settled for an extra protein bar I had in my backpack, but shortly after I found a spot with a more tolerable line.

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This position of this mascot's hand is just asking for some pretty suggestive photo opportunities:

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After a much needed energy recharge, I gathered up the remaining creds. Tomahawk wasn’t included on the fast pass, but luckily it was only around 10 minutes.

For a family wooden coaster–and first time trying out the family GCI trains–it was alright. Certainly not as thrilling as the family gravity groups or something like Invadr, but more on par with the kiddie PTCs at the old Paramount Parks.

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The best thing about this ride is the ridiculous interaction with Stampida. It feels like an RCT player’s hopeless attempt to squeeze in another coaster in an already existing plot.

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Finished off the cred run with both sides on Stampida. Other than hearing some pretty poor things about the ride, I went in blind regarding the layout. It had plenty of rough spots, the trains were… interesting to say the least… but it was actually kind of fun?

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The layout is solid, with some good drops and pops of airtime, and some absurd moments of laterals as well.

I really enjoyed the dueling aspect as well. I thought most of the ride would be typical side by side racing, but it was nice to see some variation in the dueling aspect. One moment your like, “Where did the other train go?” then all of a sudden it flies right by you in the other direction.

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So Stampida wasn’t as bad as I thought. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it good, but if the park put some work into it I could see it being a solid woodie.

With all the creds taken care of, I looped back to the front of the park.

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The huge park combined with the tallest coaster in Europe made for some pretty cool shots.

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At this point it was time for rerides. Made my way up to Furious Bae for another round. But upon scanning my fastpass, I couldn’t go through. Apparently, my fast pass card was only for one use on each major attraction, not the unlimited card that I thought I bought. I left the queue, and started making my way back towards guests services, thinking that the woman there gave me the wrong fast pass level. But then I realized that I did indeed only buy the basic fast pass level. The one I got was 40 euros, whereas unlimited was 75 euros. But for whatever reason, I thought I had the unlimited with me.

This put a bit of a damper on my day. Because I thought I had unlimited fast pass, I went on a slower pace than I normally would have. I still had time to do some rerides, but not nearly as many as I would’ve wanted given the long queues.

I was having an amazing visit here so far, and I wasn’t about to let that change. I joined the standby queue for Furious Baco, which was advertised at 90 min. I realized pretty soon that it was only gonna take about 30 min. 15 minutes in, I heard a ride op shout out “Uno?,” trying to fill a single seat. I immediately took the opportunity to skip the rest of the queue, and they put me on the front row. Don’t mind if I do!

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As a single rider I think that it would be difficult to try an inside seat since seats are assigned, but I still loved it. The rattle was still insane, but the view in the front row was amazing.

The B&Ms were the only other rides I was interested in reriding, so I made my way back up there.

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Both Dragon Khan and Shambhala still had queues advertised for well over an hour, but given the heavy overestimation on Baco, I hoped they wouldn’t be as bad. I was wrong.

Fortunately, it turns out Shambhala has a single rider line. Unfortunately, dozens of people, most of which weren’t actually single riders, were using it. The other problem was that entrance to the standby queue basically led people into the single rider queue, meaning people had to climb underneath railings to even get to standby. I think the main entrance to the single rider queue didn’t start until partway into the standby queue, but so many people were spilling out of single rider queue that the standby was blocked.

It was a mess. While the single rider queue seemed long, there were a **** ton of people in the standby, so I braved single rider. It turned out to be an hour long.

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But it was okay, because I rode towards the back row, the ride op didn’t push down on my restraint, and I had some room leftover. There’s the Mako-level airtime I was looking for, on every single hill. That ride put Shambhala above as the best B&M hyper.

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It was around 6:30 at this point, and while the park didn’t close until 8, I decided to leave the park early and catch an earlier train, finishing the day on a high note. I also wanted to figure out the train situation, and whether I’d need a shuttle bus or not. Turns out it was just a simple return train, so I could’ve taken the later train and gained an extra re ride or two.

It was a long day, and the train ride home was just as lovely as it was in the morning.

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But yes, Port Aventura is a Top 5 park for me. The ride count was lower than I would’ve liked (got all the notable creds and only 2 rides on Shammy and Baco), but I was fine with that.

It was honestly pretty magical throughout most of the day, until I found out that I hadn’t had the right fast pass for unlimited rides. Had I known that before, I would’ve been able to plan that better and try to get more rerides, but honestly I’m kinda glad I didn’t because it meant that I was in a pretty relaxed mood since arriving and could just enjoy the park. I’m also at the point right now where I’ve done plenty of similar models out there so only ride ride on Dragon Kahn and two on Shammy aren’t a huge deal because there are plenty of others out there.

The park is also HUGE, also making it hard for rerides. Nearly a half hour walk from the entrance to Shambhala. But I just loved being there. They definitely need to figure out their batching system with fast pass though. There’s no reason that a B&M hyper should be approaching 90 min, even when the operations are actually good (which they were).

The rest of the park was top notch, everything I’d want in a theme park. Even the protected bins in the station were fantastic, especially because this was my first time doing a park with a backpack. It worked out great.

So I guess next time–and I’ll for sure make it happen because I loved Spain–I’ll probably just do Port Aventura only (no Ferrari Land) and splurge on the unlimited fast pass.

With Port Aventura done, it was back to more culture stuff for the trip. But wait! There are more creds abound?!
 

Youngster Joey

Strata Poster
I didn’t bother with the drop tower (or any other flat rides for that matter). The theming around the base of this model was pretty impressive, but the ride itself looked pretty standard. In hindsight, it probably would’ve been worth giving a go for the views.
That drop tower is anything but normal. It has a standing up side and a forward leaning side. I think theres a 3rd side that's different from the normal seating position but I can't remember what it is. Quite intense depending on the side you end up on.

Also Shambhala <3 Glad to hear it's still running great 10 years later.
 

Hutch

Strata Poster
That drop tower is anything but normal. It has a standing up side and a forward leaning side. I think theres a 3rd side that's different from the normal seating position but I can't remember what it is. Quite intense depending on the side you end up on.
I'll have to check it out the next time I go. I've actually never done one of those models (looks like a bunch are around the SF/Cedar Fair parks... they never looked too interesting).
 

Youngster Joey

Strata Poster
I'll have to check it out the next time I go. I've actually never done one of those models (looks like a bunch are around the SF/Cedar Fair parks... they never looked too interesting).
yeah the standard model is fun but the extra weird ways to do it make it special.
 
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